Batman ’66 stands as one of the best examples of superhero television done right. The show was quite phenomenal in its time and I remember watching reruns as a kid in the late 90s, and getting all excited whenever the action directions lit up on the screen with “BAM!” and “KAPOW!” and what not. Oh and Adam West was absolutely brilliant on the show as both Bruce Wayne and Batman. Not to mention that the show introduced us to the whole firefighter-style changing room that the hero used to change into his “work-clothes”. It really was quite incredible and has enjoyed a renewed surge in popularity in recent months as well thanks to DC’s Batman ’66 comics.
The latest issue of the hit series is the adaptation by Len Wein of an unfilmed episode of the show that saw the debut of none other than Two-Face, the Duke of Duplicity himself. Borne out of something that Harlan Ellison wrote for the show but which was never picked up unfortunately, this issue explores how Two-Face would have been like on the show, from both a writing perspective and an art perspective. It really is a most fun issue and while sometimes the campiness got to be a bit too much, it was nevertheless quite entertaining all the way through and Two-Face rocked it all.
An original story by Harlan Ellison, one of the best television writers of all time, for Batman ’66? Sign me up, man! What Len Wein delivers in this giant issue is something truly fantastic as he navigates the serious and the camp of Two-Face, working off of Ellison’s own notes and script. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this issue when I picked it up, but it definitely wasn’t all the fun that I ended up having, owing largely to how well Harvey is written, and the many twists and turns before Batman and Robin manage to capture the Duke of Duplicity. Or something like it.
I’ve never really liked Len Wein’s stuff before, but with this issue he has definitely won me over. The script has all the hallmarks and definitive points of the original show, and Len Wein basically does a great homage to it while also showing us the readers how things could have been for the show itself. Harvey Dent never made the cut to join the villains cast of the show unfortunately, and I really wish that he had, based on what I read in here. Because Len really seems to capture the basics of the character and then just run off with it.
Two-Face is a very complex, and very interesting character. And in his adaptation Len Wein treats the character just right. He gives us the character’s origin story, how he changed from Harvey Dent to Two-Face and he captures the ferocity and recklessness and honour of the character in these “few” pages. There are some distinct divisions between the several scene-sequences, and Len Wein breaks them all down into manageable chunks so it is a better experience overall, to read it in either a single sitting, or multiple sitting. The single sitting definitely has its advantages though, and I prefer that myself since otherwise much of the fun of the story is lost if you come back to a comic after reading only a bit of it at first.
And then there’s Batman and Robin and all the other secondary characters from this issue, all of whom turn out to be rather well-done and not at all disappointing. Once again, Len Wein is simply able to capture the best of what makes this character tick and then he mashes them all together into a fun package.
Joe Luis Garcia-Lopez is the artist here with Joe Prado on inks, Alex Sinclair on colours, Wes Abbott on letters, and the cover itself by none other than Alex Ross. The artwork here is pretty fantastic. The artists are able to stay true to the look and feel of the television show, and things really couldn’t have been different for those who are staying there. There’s vitality and energy to Garcia-Lopez’s artwork that really speaks out, which is all I really wanted from this episode in comics-form, so that there’s nothing missing per se.
All in all, this was a much better experience than I expected, though I also wish that we’d been able to see more and that Len Wein had dialed down the campiness a little bit. Other than that, smooth sailing all the way!